Imagine you’re the captain of a seafaring vessel sailing the majestic Pacific, the cerulean water shimmering on the horizon while dolphins follow your wake along the surface. The course is set and the wind is perfect.
Wait a minute! The radio is cutting out. The compass is going haywire. North is south and east is west. It’s the Bermuda Triangle. Without a navigator, you’re doomed.
Welcome to the world of New Orleans schools.
Public or private, charter or magnet, it’s a dead zone. If you grew up almost anywhere else in the country, your parents picked the closest school and, generally, everything turned out okay. In New Orleans, the so-called “good” schools are sparse and the demand is high. A study published earlier this year by Education Week Magazine placed Louisiana public schools at #46 in the nation based on school achievement, chances for success, and financing. That’s rough. Without guidance, the maelstrom can drag new parents into the abyss, never to be seen again.
Like all those lost ships, modern families are swallowed up by the idea that unless their child goes to the best school, he or she will probably end up cooking meth. It is what it is. Blame Facebook. That aside, how does a parent plot a course through the vortex of lost souls called our educational system?
Here are some tips to consider before diving into the dark murky waters:
Unless you have a wealthy family member donating an addition for the new library, your kid needs to be on a waitlist. It could take years. Be proactive. Even if you haven’t met your future baby mama or dada, come up with a name for the nonexistent child and throw it on every waitlist you might even remotely be interested in. I planned ahead and my son, Veronica, managed to get into one of our top picks.
Creativity is key
When you’re filling out applications, it doesn’t hurt to take a deep dive in order to stand out. Isn’t your wife’s brother-in-law half-Persian? Cultural Diversity! I swear I heard Grandma use a Yiddish word the other day. Multi-Lingual! Little Timmy helped Grandpa color in his numbers at Bingo night at the VFW hall. Advanced Placement Mathematics! Anything helps to make sure your youngster rises above the rest and demonstrates what a valuable asset he or she would be to the institution.
Keep an open mind
No matter how hard you bust your butt setting up tours and curriculum meetings, there’s still a good chance you won’t get your top picks. Don’t turn your nose up at the neighborhood school that won’t allow lunchboxes made from unrecycled plastics or the early learning program run by the Flat-Earth Society. Ok, maybe skip that last one. The point is it will not be the last school your child attends. If he or she has some colorful experiences for a few years, it will only broaden their horizons. Keep in mind you are still their parents with the power to impose whatever worldview you wish on them from the privacy of your own home. No crappy education can take that away from you!
I hope these small tips help navigate your family vessel through the uncharted waters of the educational system in New Orleans. Maintain a steady bearing and there will be no need to resort to cannibalism. The OneApp system and the overpriced private schools operating out of someone’s in-law suite are the albatross’ putrefying around our necks, but fear not for New Orleans has many promising options. The kids will be all right, no matter what your Facebook feed says.
About Adam Dennis
Part father, husband, writer, musician, lawyer, and chef, Adam has had his toes in just about everything. He stays at home with his crazy kids, Shane and Ivy, while his beautiful wife Susan works as a pediatric dentist on the North Shore. Originally from the DC area, Adam and his wife transplanted to New Orleans in 2011 and made it their home. He blogs about writing, music, and whatever else comes to mind on his website here.